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‘Small in stature but a force in SA politics’: Tributes pour in for Jessie Duarte

  • Although small in stature, the late ANC deputy secretary general ‘Yasmin’ Jessie Duarte has been described as a “force in SA politics”.
  • Duarte succumbed to cancer in the early hours of Sunday.
  • She will be laid to rest on Sunday afternoon as per Muslim rites.

Opposition political leaders, including UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and ATM leader Vuyolwethu Zungula, have extended their condolences to the family, colleagues, and friends of the late ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, following her death on Sunday.

Zungula described Duarte as a dynamite in a small package. 

“She may have been small in stature but she was a force who stood her ground for what was right in a male-dominated SA political landscape. She was resolute and a force in the SA political landscape.

“We might be in different political parties put this does not mean that we are enemies and need to celebrate when other political parties are suffering a loss. 

“… as the ATM [we] offer our condolences to the ANC and the family of Ms Duarte,” said Zungula. 

Holomisa said: “My condolences to Duarte’s family, the ANC and friends. She played her innings. 

“She [Duarte] and Barbara Masekela used to welcome me, when called by Madiba for meetings at Shell House. Ubambe Kakuhle Nkosazana, ugqatso ulufezile (rest in peace ma’am and may your soul rest in peace),” said Holomisa. 

Duarte’s brother Zane Dangor said the family was taking comfort in the fact that she was now at peace after her battle with cancer. 

Dangor said Duarte, “… took care of most of us including myself in the family. 

“We have come to terms with her passing because we knew she was in pain for the past eight months. 

“In the last couple of weeks we spoke about that she was ready to go but she was only worried about how everyone else would deal with her passing,” said Dangor. 

Among the many roles Duarte occupied, were SA’s Ambassador to Mozambique, ANC Spokesperson, and personal assistant to former ANC presidents Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. She was a crucial part of the formation of the ANC Women’s League.

Jessie Duarte and Helen Zille chat at the IEC’s el

Jessie Duarte and Helen Zille chat at the IEC’s election results centre during the municipal elections of 2021 on November 02, 2021 in Pretoria. (Photo by Gallo Images/Beeld/Deaan Vivier) Gallo ImagesGallo Images/Beeld/Deaan Vivier

ANC National Spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “It is with profound sadness that the African National Congress has learned of the passing of our deputy secretary general, Comrade Yasmin ‘Jessie’ Duarte, during the early morning of Sunday, 17 July 2022.”

Duarte had been on medical leave since November 2021.

The ANC described Duarte as the matriarch and pillar of her family.

“The ANC expresses its heartfelt condolences to the Duarte, Dangor, and Whitley extended families, loved ones, and friends. She was both a tower of strength to the organisation as well as a matriarch and pillar of her family.

“The passing of Comrade Jessie is a great loss, not only to the family but to the democratic movement and the country as a whole. As a committed internationalist and former diplomat, not only will she be mourned by South Africa, but by colleagues and comrades on the African continent and in the international progressive movement,” said Mabe.

“She dedicated her entire life to the struggle for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous, and just South Africa. A committed gender activist, she relentlessly championed the emancipation and empowerment of women. Her life and work reflected a consistent commitment to advancing the rights of the poor and marginalised.

Duarte served as the deputy secretary general of the ANC since 2012 and was a member of its National Executive Committee since 2002.

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